As a teen, I remember watching many movies. In the 90’s, I would drive my bike to our local video rental store and walk through the isles in search of something I hadn’t seen before. I can still recall the thrill of it! It was an event in itself and it made me feel alive every Friday night! Sadly for my children, they will never understand the thrill and the anticipation of “renting a movie” as they grow up with the on-demand streaming technology.
That being said, I am not writing this article to walk down memory lane and recall the VHS tapes and DVD rental era, although this would deserve a post in itself. I am writing to talk about coaches. As a teen, I rented films of all kinds as my objective, although absolutely unrealistic, was to see every movie ever made. I confirm that I still have not reached the goal and I have now given up on that impossible quest. Among the movies I saw, many, especially American ones, were about sports. You know, the typical underdog team that completely sucks but through the magic of a coach goes from absolute loser to winning the championship?
A good example of this would be “The Mighty Ducks”, one of my childhood favorites… Yes, I know… I am a total stereotype! A Canadian making a reference to a movie about hockey…. What can I say… Hockey is just a better sport!
Anyhow, growing up watching these cheesy sports movies, I admired coaches and believed they were the true heroes. They were the centerpiece, the glue that held the story together and made the magic happen. They were the pillar unto which the players leaned on and the true image of what being an adult should be like. When that is said, this image was mainly fictional as in my personal life, I had never met a coach of such stature. I did play basketball and we had a coach, but he was strange and creepy and definitely not movie material. Therefore, I grew up thinking coaches were mainly an American invention for Disney hockey teams, for high school football and good movie storyline.
That was the extent and the end of my relationship with coaches… or so I thought.
As an adult (even though I still doubt I have reached the level of maturity to call myself that), I have never had coaches. I have had professors at university, managers, leaders, but none of them I would describe as a coach. Their focus was on the learnings, the milestones and the deliverables, but seldom on growing the team together or focusing on my personal and professional development, at least nothing close to my romanticized movie version of what a coach should be. Therefore for years, until very recently actually, I never considered coaches something important in general or for me specifically. Why would I want or need a coach? What would that person do and what would be the point?
This was the case until I felt that my professional development at work was stalling. I felt confused and lost not knowing what the next steps could or should be. I looked around at my peers and many had mentors. In all cases, these mentors were someone from the company in a higher up position with whom they would talk and brainstorm on issues on a somewhat regular basis. As I felt that I was stalling in my development, I did like everyone else and I got a mentor. It was an interesting addition to my set of tools to develop and my mentor and I talked about professional issues related to our company and she helped me tackle some very practical challenges I was facing… but I wanted more. I wanted to develop deeper and not just tackle the next milestones. I wanted to understand who I was as a manager, where I wanted to go and how my personality influenced my work and vice versa. Based on these thoughts, some quick google research, I decided to get a business coach.
I admit, I was very skeptical of the idea.
Someone external, who doesn’t know me was going to help me understand myself and help me develop professionally? Really? I have seen therapists before so I know getting external help can be extremely powerful, but a coach sounded more like a "new age" concept out of some self-development business book. I wasn’t convinced. In any case, I found a coach online and decided to give it a go. To give it a proper chance, I signed up to 10 sessions and decided to trust the process and go all in… So I went all in. That’s when I realized, years later, that those coaches in the movies, they actually exist. There are people with interpersonal skills and coaching abilities that live up to the talent of the movie coaches.
I have learned tremendously from my coach. Actually, I would not have written any of my LinkedIn articles without the process I went through with her. Getting a coach has allowed me to understand better who I am at work, how I am at work and how to develop at work. It has allowed me to understand how I lead my team, what works for me, where I am challenged, what I need to improve and what my true strengths are. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of thinking, wondering and pondering but it’s been a fantastic journey for me. Most importantly, it has allowed me to learn that being vulnerable is not a weakness but just part of being human and that being kind with myself is the foundation for everything.
I would recommend everyone, at one point or another, to get a coach. Whether it is for personal or professional reasons, it doesn’t matter. Having someone in your corner helping you see things under a new light can accelerate personal and professional growth exponentially. I have been thinking a lot about what I have gained from being coached over the last few months and I firmly believe everyone should be coached now and again throughout their life and/or careers. To convince the skeptical ones, here is a compilation of the reasons and things I have learned through my process of being coached. It might not resonate with everyone, but this is my personal experience and what I have learned:
Being kind. If I should summarize my whole coaching experience into two words, it would be “be kind”. Be kind to myself and others. From the first session, my coach said repeatedly to be kind to myself, to stop judging my actions negatively, to stop putting myself down and just “be kind”. It took me a few weeks to learn to do so and to realize how much power resides in being kind to myself. Being kind to myself doesn’t only mean to be nice, but it means to learn to accept my strengths and weaknesses and stop judging who I am with negativity. Once I learned to be kind to myself, my self-imposed limits started to expand. I started to realize all the strengths I have and I started to challenge my own status quo. Being kind also means no longer fearing being vulnerable and this has enabled me to give myself permission to start publishing my writing on LinkedIn without fearing my judgement and the one from others. By being kind to myself, I also started to be kinder to others. My patience increased and I became more compassionate. As a manager, being kind also helps me take time to understand others, their rationale and their reasonings. Being kind also allows me to enjoy life more as I see things more positively in general. Being kind is really the root to a happier life.
It's ok to be vulnerable. Like most people, I have always feared being vulnerable or for my vulnerabilities to be discovered. While working with my coach, I have had to open up, let my vulnerabilities come out and learn to be kind to them. This process has allowed me to discover that being vulnerable makes me more human. Others relate to me more easily when I show my vulnerabilities and this has allowed me to be a better friend, manager and employee. Being vulnerable is not dangerous, it’s empowering.
Know yourself. When you are coached, you are constantly confronted with who you are and how you act. Both your “being” and “doing” are observed and investigated and through this process, my self-awareness has really increased dramatically. Some of my ways of being and acting were deconstructed to be reconstructed and I understand my reactions so much better now. This has enabled me to change some of my behaviors and learned to be different in some situations. This is an ongoing journey I will continue for the rest of my life.
Trust others. I have always had a difficult relationship with trust and with trusting others. When you decide to get a coach, trust is suddenly challenged greatly as you can’t get the benefits of being coached without trusting your coach. For me, to learn to trust my coach was not easy so I decided to take a leap of faith and just trust from the get go. This was actually very challenging as a constant voice in my head tried to protect me from opening too much. That being said, as I decided to trust my coach, I have learned that trusting others isn’t that hard. People are generally nice and trusting doesn’t mean opening the door to being taken advantage of. Trusting means letting people in and letting them see you for who you are and that’s not as dangerous as it might sound.
No limits. I have fewer limits than I thought! As I spent time with my coach, I often said that I couldn’t do something because of X or that things were the way they were because of Y. My coach challenged me each time by asking me why? Why is it that I can’t do X or why is it that I accept Y as it is. Often, I didn’t have the answer. It was just an assumption I had made overtime, a limit I had imposed on myself. It turns out that a lot of my limits are actually only in my head. For example, I always thought I couldn’t write and publish my writing. Why? Just because I thought it wasn’t interesting or good enough… This was a limit in my head but it turns out it is not a real limit. This is one example among so many… we are way less limited than we believe.
There are so many other areas I have improved or learned about through being coached. Here is a list a quick list of some of my other learnings:
All and all, I can’t recommend enough to everyone to get a coach at one point or another in their life. Having someone to mirror you is challenging but a critical way to help you grow, whether it is professionally or personally. If you are ever looking for a coach because you already know this would be good for you or because my post got you curious, let me know! I have a great one to recommend!